A pair of injuries (and a pair of losses) dampen Orioles' outlook

It was bad enough when Orioles manager Buck Showalter had to go to the mound in the fifth inning of Sunday's 7-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, trailing by six runs and dipping into a bullpen that was without closer Zach Britton.

Once he arrived at the mound to end starter Ubaldo Jimenez' frustrating day, Showalter noticed something off about shortstop J.J. Hardy. The Orioles' day was about to get worse.


Hardy had fouled a ball off his left foot the previous inning. Showalter pressed him on it. Hardy said the foot stiffened up quickly.

Showalter removed him from the game in the following inning. Hardy had an X-ray at the stadium and will undergo a CT scan Monday to determine the extent of what the team is now calling a left foot contusion.

The team's off-day Monday will also include an MRI for Britton, who sprained his left ankle in Saturday's loss. Over the course of 20 hours this weekend, the Orioles suffered a pair of injuries that dampen their 14-10 start and place importance on the results of two medical tests of injured All-Stars.

"It's happened before," Showalter said of mounting injuries. "It's just part of it. We knew it wasn't a matter of 'if', it was 'when.' You hope it's 'if'. Some teams get really lucky in a year. But it's nothing that we can't overcome, and nothing that guys won't be back from at some point. The what-ifs and who comes in and holds the fort and keeps us competitive — we'll see."

Of the two, Hardy's prognosis seems more ominous.

Britton, who spoke before the game while on crutches and in a walking boot, said he would be surprised if he landed on the disabled list. He jammed his ankle Saturday trying to make an athletic, glove-scoop putout on a bunt down the first-base line — a play he joked would be the end of his Gold Glove award push.

There's no timeline for getting a ball back into his hand, even if he said things were encouraging. The pain was localized in one spot, and there wasn't a lot of swelling, Britton said.

"It feels pretty good compared to yesterday, how it feels this morning, but it's still some tenderness in there and obviously I'm not walking great," Britton said Sunday. "I think you've got to walk fine before I can even start pitching again. Hopefully, it's just a few days and I can maybe throw a bullpen or something, or at least run on it and see how it feels."

Britton received electric stimulation treatment to promote blood flow in the ankle Sunday morning, and Showalter, who called him "the proverbial day-to-day" late Saturday night, said his prognosis was about the same Sunday.

"I think he'll be a pitcher shortly — hopefully," Showalter said, adding that it probably helped that it was his left plant foot, as opposed to his landing ankle, which takes more pressure during a pitch delivery. Britton said pushing off would be the biggest test, but that he would tape or wear a brace on his ankle if it helped him return.

There was no such positive spin on Hardy's knock, though he did appear smooth in the field after the ball hit him at the plate. In the same inning as his injury, he completed a reaction play on a ball that deflected off third baseman Manny Machado's glove. Showalter said might be the best play anyone makes in the league all year.

Hardy has been his typical Gold Glove self in the field, and is making consistently strong contact en route to a .244/.291/.410 batting line with two home runs. He's been mostly healthy this season, but the fact that he's receiving another X-Ray so soon brings the possibility of a fracture, or worse.

"There are things we want to look at further, make sure we get our arms around what exactly it is," Showalter said.

"He fouled a ball off his foot, and it got real stiff and sore quickly. And so he's going to get some more detail. ... They are going to look at it with a more extensive X-ray to see what they are dealing with."


Any extended time without Hardy would require a roster move, even if Machado slides to shortstop, as he did Sunday and has now done four times this season.

Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday and has eight hits with a .934 OPS in five games since, can be summoned immediately if someone goes on the disabled list. Shortstop Paul Janish enjoyed a good April in Norfolk and could be a candidate for a call-up, but would need to be added to a crowded 40-man roster.

The Orioles were already one reliever heavier than usual this week, with Vance Worley moving to the bullpen and Brian Matusz returning, so it's unclear whether they will add an arm to cover for Britton, or place him on the disabled list. Showalter was predictably coy when asked who the closer would be in the event of a long Britton absence.

Any long-term loss of Hardy would be a big blow to a club that has enjoyed his highlight-reel defense on a nightly basis, and his threatening presence extending their lineup.

"It's going to be hard," said Jimenez, who benefited from two spectacular Hardy plays Sunday. "It's going to be hard, because he's one of those guys that's going to do everything possible in his hands to get an out. He never gives up. It doesn't matter where the ball is, he's going to go after it and try to get you out of the inning.

Said center fielder Adam Jones: "It's unfortunate, but everybody has to go through it and it's a true test of what a team is all about."


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